Jefferson County, Watertown must see eye-to-eye on EMS plan

WWNY Jefferson County, Watertown must see eye-to-eye on EMS plan

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown has a plan to scale back the number of EMS calls city firefighters go on. The plan only works if Jefferson County is on board.

Watertown City Council spent Monday night hashing out how to reel in the fire department’s emergency medical services.

The solution is to have Jefferson County provide Emergency Medical Dispatch, or EMD, services to the city.

Mayor Jeff Smith says Watertown residents already pay for it in county taxes.

“We want to have the same level of EMD service for our fire department that is provided to every other town and village in the county of Jefferson,” he said.

EMD is an international system to determine the severity of an emergency call. The county provides EMD services to other towns and villages, but city fire automatically responds to calls it’s responsible for.

Smith says the fire department should know the severity before hitting the streets.

“Every call is not the worst case scenario. So, we have to make sure we’re responding with the appropriate resources,” he said.

Council plans to introduce a resolution next week calling for the county to provide EMD to Watertown’s fire department starting next January.

“Fifteen members of this board have to adopt a resolution for this organization to act. So, if the city thinks they can pass a resolution telling us what to do, I think they’re mistaken,” said Scott Gray, Jefferson County Board of Legislators chair.

Gray says to provide EMD to the city, they’d have to hire five more workers, costing $300,000 and Guilfoyle Ambulance already handles the service for itself.

Gray says if the city gets its way, county taxes will go up and Watertown residents will see less of the city’s fire department at emergencies.

“The taxpayers are going to pay more and have less service. End of story,” said Gray.

Gray says he’s had an initial discussion with the head of Guilfoyle and if any change is to happen, it will be after talks with the ambulance service.

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